Oregon Shines Light On Education Colleges, Training in Audit Report

Teacher training programs around Oregon have showed substantial improvement over the past few years, according to a state audit report published this week, but there is still far to go to ensure that those aspiring to teach are getting the best preparation possible.

The report chided the 6 public teachers colleges in Oregon for not collecting information on their graduates' employment prospects and their performance as assessed by their principals and colleagues. Without this information, education colleges are working blind in their efforts to overhaul academic programs to better match their students' skills to the needs of the schools where they will work.

However, that might be changing starting next year.

Hilda Rosselli, Oregon deputy director of college and career readiness, said that beginning next summer, the state and colleges will survey principals each year for feedback on the performance of new teachers prepared by any of Oregon's 20 colleges of education. The state will publish results for each college.

The state also will survey all new teachers prepared in Oregon a year and a half after they begin teaching to learn what they did and did not feel their college prepared them to do well, she said.

Many changes recommended in the audit are already under way and will be accelerated now that the Oregon Department of Education and others are spending the money and carrying out the mandates that came with passage of House Bill 3233, a priority of since-departed Oregon Education Officer Rudy Crew, said his interim successor Nancy Golden.

The $45 million allocated by the law will be invested in programs that improve the quality of teacher training and offer continuing development opportunities to instructors who are already well advanced in their careers. The money will also be used to set up mentorship networks that pair new teachers with more experienced peers to provide support to those entering the profession.

Rob Saxton, the state's schools chief is attempting to make this money work as quickly as possible. It has barely been a month since HB 3233 passage, but already, the first round of grants funded by the $45 million are going to be awarded next month.

According to Betsy Hammond of The Oregonian, the grants will go towards programs that are looking for innovative solutions to the problems plaguing teacher training programs.

The audit recommends that Oregon move to a system other states are starting to use, called the Teacher Performance Assessment, which judges a similar portfolio plus video of the student teacher at work to determine whether a candidate is fit to become a licensed teacher. The TPA portfolio and video are judged by outside experts organized by a consulting firm, and Oregon auditors said they like the independence that adds.

But Karen Marrongelle, Oregon's interim vice chancellor for academic strategies, and Golden, the interim chief education officer, both said in their formal responses to the audit that Oregon should stick with and upgrade its own work sample rather than switch to the TPA.

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